How do owls achieve noiseless flight?

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How do owls achieve noiseless flight?

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A quick and simple explanation: they have huge wings compared to their body mass, they glide when they can, and are very good at gliding very slowly and thus quietly. In addition they have special structures their feathers that help reduce noise.

Owls have disproportionatley large wings for their body size – less flappy flappy more glidey glidey. And their feathers have specially evolved serrations on their edges (google owl feather closeup) that further disturb and smooth the airflow over them reducing turbulence. While I work in aerospace Im not an aerospace engineer, so a proper explanation probably has stuff to do with fluid dynamics and cool terms like boundary separation and vortex shedding, but if I recall its vortexes caused by the wing/feather moving through the air that causes the sound. So if you have physical vanes or serrations that intrude on that and break the big vortexes into smaller ones, it’ll be quieter. Similar to how newer airliner jet engines have those little triangle teeth on the exhaust nacelles, to break up the exhaust airstream for noise abatement.

[And remember, if silence were loudness, owls would be the loudest flying bird. That is how the owl… doooo.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeFxdkaFzRA)

On top of what others have included about large wing spans and serrated feathers. Their feathers are softer/fluffier than other birds which are more sleek and layer tightly over themselves. Where owls get silent flight, they trade out the water resistant quality other feathers tend to have. So a wet owl, or a moist owlet if you will, has incredible difficulty flying.

Easy– if you were to compare an owl feather to, say, a goose feather, you would see that the owl feathers have fluffy ends, which massively deafen the bird’s flight noise. Alternatively, a goose feather is significantly more rigid, with no fluff at the ends to deafen the flight.

The feathers on the edges of their wings are very soft. This makes for an almost complete lack of flapping sound.